LinkedIn achievement is tied to performance. Performance on the site defines as the ability to execute on several key communication strategies that enable business growth or career development. LinkedIn achievers are lifelong learners, goal-oriented, and have a high level of cognitive stamina. As you attach significance to the activities you carry out on the site, context emerges. Your focus sharpens, your intuition takes over, and you gain receptivity towards possibilities. To help get you that level, I have developed a system of LinkedIn absolutes.
Since I started my LinkedIn consultancy in early 2007, I have zeroed in on the manner in which businesspeople have responded to the demands of a disruptive technology. I have fashioned my observations into a unique methodology in teaching LinkedIn success principles—integrating traditional marketing techniques where applicable—while focusing on behaviors that create positive change.
The basic idea of LinkedIn is easier said than done: First, create a magnificent profile that illuminates you, conveys your professional value, and encourages others to connect with you. Next, maneuver about the site in a manner that captures attention and fosters relationship building. Finally, convert your experiences on LinkedIn into tangible, real-world business results. Simple, yes?
LinkedIn, in all its various aspects, is a lesson in cause and effect. Each action or inaction has consequences. Through my work, which has long since been my passion, I have developed what I call the Absolutes of LinkedIn, an educational foundation that will help motivated, opportunity-oriented professionals build eminence, gain a competitive advantage, and maximize their potential on LinkedIn.
1). Visualize a Desired Outcome
Identify a desired outcome (e.g., new client, new job, a good connection, etc.) and see it vividly in your mind’s eye. That which follows now has order and structure. Design your LinkedIn profile around that desired outcome. Assemble your LinkedIn network around that desired outcome. Initiate or advance each conversation around that desired outcome.
Envision the transaction, the passing of the check to you. Hear the voice of the hiring manager offering you the position. Feel the firmness of the handshake upon meeting the decision maker for the first time.
♦ Successful use of LinkedIn is a function of mindset. Without the proper mindset, your work on LinkedIn will be mechanical, detached, and misguided. Also, never underestimate the power of positive psychology. Optimism opens doors and generates opportunities.
2). Crystallize your Message
Clarity is king. Be clear on what you wish to accomplish professionally. Deconstruct your message into its individual components (the what, the how, the when, the where, and the why), and evaluate each piece on its stand-alone merits. Next, specify the situations in which you excel and the types of people or organizations for whom you create value. Coalesce these pieces into a story, one that you own, one for which you wish to become known, and one that sells you.
♦ If you are a problem solver, mention the types of problems that you solve; if you are a trusted advisor, explain how others benefit from your counsel; if you are a value creator, reveal how you improve the lives of others; if you are in or looking for a leadership role, discuss what fuels your passion to serve others.
♦ Razor-sharp branding is essential on LinkedIn. In a distracted society, you only get a precious few seconds to command someone’s attention, let alone make an impact. If your message is on-target and uniquely expressed, you will facilitate greater ease of recall on you, your company, and your offerings.
♦ Any hint of ambiguity or vagueness in your LinkedIn profile will diminish your value in the eyes of a potential client, strategic alliance, or employer, and render you unmemorable. Choose to become indelible.
3). Idealize your LinkedIn Profile
Commit and conform to an ideal or “best version” of yourself. A strong self-concept is essential in leveraging LinkedIn to achieve your desired outcome. The purpose of your LinkedIn profile is to convey your professional value in a manner that drives a favorable first (and lasting) impression. Fearlessly guide the perceptions of visitors. The voice that comes through the writing, in combination with the visual elements on the page, must engender trust and shape the attitudes, judgments, and beliefs of others. What must those you wish to serve know about you?
♦ When you elevate your self-image accordingly, you can set realistic expectations for your use of LinkedIn. With increased confidence comes more concentrated activity, which translates into tangible results.
♦ Your LinkedIn profile gives rise to a social brand which accompanies you in the real world. A profile that fails to capture the essence of the subject falls flat and neutralizes any attempt to gain traction on the site.
4). Emphasize your Value to the LinkedIn Community
Think of your mission on LinkedIn in terms of running an ongoing credibility campaign. LinkedIn provides the infrastructure through which you can accomplish multiple marketing objectives. To be regarded by your target audience, your content must be sharp, relevant, and biased toward you. The more individual expression you put forth on LinkedIn, the more likely you will cross paths with the people you need to meet. Keep telling us what it is you bring to the table and why we should offer you a seat.
♦ On your LinkedIn profile, you create the business case for yourself. Establish your page as a research platform so that your transaction partners, would-be connections, or recruiters can learn about you. Provide the requisite inbound and outbound links.
♦ Take creative liberties with your brand story through video pieces, reinforce your value through published long-form posts (LinkedIn blogs), and demonstrate social proof through the well-crafted LinkedIn recommendations of those who bear witness to your skills and expertise.
♦ All roads lead to and from your LinkedIn profile. Help the right people get there.
5). Personalize all LinkedIn Correspondence
Inject your personality into each piece of LinkedIn communication. Do not be lackadaisical in messaging or approaching others; this is formal, person-to-person business communication that can make or break you. Reach out to people on a human level and you will be seen as someone who cares about developing professional relationships. LinkedIn is not a site on which to blast emails. Not a soul in your network will appreciate a message that begins with “Dear Valued Connection.”
When inviting someone to connect on LinkedIn, do not send the default, standardized greeting. Serve reminder as to where, when, and how you met, and why you feel connecting is a good idea. The same holds true for recommendation requests, extending congratulations to a connection for landing a new position, or celebratory best wishes to a connection on a birthday or work anniversary.
♦ In all cases, delete the prefab text. LinkedIn master communicators do not work off templates; rather, they appeal to the sensibilities of the recipient with a personal message, one that is composed to fit the situation and designed to evoke a response.
♦ Show respect to your fellow LinkedIn citizens and it will be returned to you—in spades.
6). Prioritize your LinkedIn Network
Forging new inroads to meaningful conversations is the key to progress on LinkedIn. Business or career opportunities arise when you organically assemble and effectively manage an engaged community of professionals who are both emotionally and strategically aligned with you. When you tap the social capital of your LinkedIn network, certain connections will emerge as having potential economic value to you, and you to them. These are the relationships to which to attach priority.
♦ Identify those people who can be instrumental in moving you toward your desired outcome and focus on developing those relationships. Give special consideration to those first-degree connections who have history with you and understand the nature of your business.
♦ Over time, you have likely moved within a number of professional circles and acquired a certain status in the eyes of your peers. Source long-time LinkedIn connections from various organizations to which you belong, your alma mater(s), and events you attended. It may have been a while since you chatted with close colleagues, former associates, or classmates. Reach out, renew, and refresh. Circumstances do change. Perhaps there are ways in which you can now help each other.
♦ When mutual benefit is involved, the priority of an engagement shifts, and conversation flows from a place of trust.
7). Characterize your LinkedIn Interactions
Your actions, as well as your words, illuminate your qualities and differentiate you on LinkedIn. Having a formidable presence on the site translates to being immediately recognizable. To that end, look for ways to distinguish yourself through your interactions. Approach each LinkedIn exchange with the goal of providing some insight into the qualities and traits that you possess. Reveal your giving nature, desire to help, and availability to mentor. Show a bit of humility, perhaps a touch of humor. When you are being authentic and intentional, people notice, and they will widen the window into their world for you.
♦ Abide by the laws of LinkedIn etiquette and uphold the standards of quality on the site. Assign professional ethics to how you “like,” comment on, and share the content of others. Approach those who have viewed your LinkedIn profile with sincerity and, when it makes sense, encourage them to connect.
♦ Endorse your connections for skills or expertise only when they have demonstrated them to you—and without expectation of something in return. Craft strong LinkedIn recommendations for those connections who truly deserve them, and do not request recommendations unless you have earned them.
♦ Do not join LinkedIn groups around which your ideal prospects cluster then ram a sales pitch down their throats. These are politically-correct forums that are moderated for quality control, and on which you will be lauded for observing the rules and respecting your fellow group members.
8). Capitalize on your Conversations
Pull potentially meaningful conversations off of LinkedIn as quickly as possible. LinkedIn becomes real at the point when you “break the plane” between the virtual and the physical worlds. Be ready to assume real-world accountability for the professional relationship that you are looking to build. Having that opening dialog is one thing; sustaining it is an altogether different (and more difficult) proposition.
Business conversations generated on LinkedIn have a shelf-life; some end at the point of invitation while others pick up steam. With each new first-degree connection, follow up with a thank-you note. If you perceive that there are synergies worth exploring, you be the proactive party and keep the momentum going.
♦ Keep meaningful conversations in play. Match each touch point received with one of your own. Granted, not everyone with whom you interact on LinkedIn will be receptive to your business overtures. But failure to follow up with those who may prove to be valuable professional resources to you can be costly.
Nothing happens on (or off of) LinkedIn until you activate. LinkedIn is a meritocracy; successful use of the platform is tied to individual ability. In business, inertia is the antithesis of growth. If you wish to generate economic opportunities through your use of LinkedIn, you must get moving and stay moving. Do not be tentative. Put in the time. Learn the site. Glide through each user session with the goal of making something good happen (e.g., gain new industry insights, connect with a motivated prospect, receive an introduction to a decision maker). When there is something to gain, the work becomes fun.
Newton’s First Law of Motion states that a body at rest will remain at rest unless an outside force acts on it, and a body in motion at a constant velocity will remain in motion in a straight line unless acted upon by an external force.
♦ My approach to LinkedIn is rooted in best practices—those which have been shown to drive superior results—and tied to a personal philosophy of representing myself well, connecting judiciously, and respectfully advancing business conversations. I engage on the site with purpose, always looking to bring people of good character into my professional network.
♦ Remember: LinkedIn is an input-equals-output proposition.
Be that body in motion that stays in motion.
[Impetus for this post comes from the late Charley Lau, a hitting coach in professional baseball who was revered for his extraordinary ability to teach the art of hitting on the Major League level. Lau consolidated his instructional framework into “The Absolutes of Hitting,” a manifesto which emphasizes the convergence of the hands, body, and mind in authoritatively hitting a baseball.]
Since 2006, JD Gershbein, CEO of Owlish Communications, has helped advance the collective awareness of LinkedIn and inspired opportunity-oriented professionals in all walks of business to step up and achieve on the site. His ability to spark others to action has earned him the moniker of “The LinkedIn Catalyst.” JD is considered one of the world’s top thought leaders on LinkedIn, and a pioneer in the design and delivery of LinkedIn education. He is also a globally acclaimed social business psychologist, keynote speaker, and frequent broadcast media expert on LinkedIn for business. Additionally, JD is adjunct professor of marketing communications at the Illinois Institute of Technology’s Stuart School of Business, where he is advancing social media marketing as an academic discipline. In addition to his blog, The Wisdom Zone, JD is a featured blogger for the Huffington Post and Forbes.
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